A MelanieM Releases Day Review: Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) by Michael Vance Gurley

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Infernal Instruments of the Dragon

As the British Empire builds power based on new clockwork and steam technology, Ireland draws its might from its potent magical traditions. Only two boys with little in common can end the fighting between the two nations and prevent a terrible worldwide war.

Gavin Haveland’s dreams are in the sky with the airships, while his reality as a High Councilman’s son means hiding secrets that will get him executed if revealed.

Orion of Oberon is not just a powerful mage, he’s the nephew of the Irish queen, and the one she’s sent him on a quest for the ancient Dragon Stones that will bolster her fading power. In the process, he might restore his family to their rightful place in society.

With enemies determined to stop them by any means necessary and war or peace hinging on their success, Gavin and Orion must find a way to work together, despite the centuries of mistrust between their nations.

Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) by Michael Vance Gurley is the first that I read by this author and it won’t be the last.  If for no other reason then this story is but the first in a new series, something that thrills me for several reasons which I’m going to go into here.

Gurley spends a good amount of time within his novel world building and it pays off.  He has a world torn apart in the past by an all too powerful mage bent on world domination, the consequences of that horrific battle have come down through the ages, with an Ireland fiercely holding on to its magic and mystical energies and the land.  While in England and beyond, steam power and coal is driving industry and the Empire forward.   Such divergent natures and thoughts of living are written into every part of Gurley’s world, including those who would rebell.

Each side is represented by a young man.  Gavin,a would be pilot of steamships, the son of a Counselor of England’s most powerful.  And Orion, son of Oberon, mage, for the magical Ireland. Two sides of the coin of a broken realm that’s forever at battle with each other.

Gurley has laid them both with a giant tasks and several prophecies, only one of which is covered here, both are fated for greatness.  And as this fast paced plot shows there are so many elements here that the author has just become to reveal.I love how the author cobbles together a sort of misfit gang to backup Gavin on his flight across London and success in his journey towards fulfilling his destiny.  Oh my, Landa (a master artificer in a top hat quite won my heart), Wish, and what’s his name, right  Lucas.   Each with their own relationship issues with family and each other.  Landa a girl who dresses/identifies as a boy (it’s never clear) nor practically steals the novel.  I actually found Landa to be such a leading character, with such a strong identity and layered personality that she often put Gavin into the “pale” at times.  So did her relationship with Wish, another steely, persistent, almost loutish types who wins you over.   Then there is Lucas who just barely comes into his own at the end.  Most of the time I couldn’t remember his name.  The problem with this is that he’s the romantic other half for Gavin.  Or supposed to be.

Then Orion arrives.  And clearly that’s who Gavin is supposed to be with.  Excerpt the author wants Lucas, at least in this book.  And there is a Lucas wannabe named Riley for Orion back in fairyland.  Just as bland with with little backstory for us so meh.

As you can tell, my issues with this story are with the romance relationships.  Well four of the relationships. Gavin and Lucas.  Orion and Riley.  To be exact.

The rest of this novel?  5 stars worth  of fantasy steampunk action adventure.  That’s so well written and thoroughly enjoyed every word of it.

But when it came to write YA romance?  Well, excerpt for Landa and Wish who are at the “at least you  aren’t insulting me” stage anymore, the other two just don’t have any chemistry.  We are told they do.  But we don’t see it or at least I didn’t.   We don’t get any feel for Riley other than he follows Orion around like a puppy dog, ditto Lucas for Gavin.  In many respects you could switch those two out for each other.  Only Gavin and Orion had a semblance of spark between them.   It would have almost have been better to have left this without any romance but a total steampunk fantasy crossover.  That would, imo, have left me feeling better at the end instead of resigned at what I felt was a banal ending for two couples.

Maybe the next story will fix that.  Here’s hoping there’s still more to put aright with the world ….

Still, romance aside, the rest of this story is fantastic.  A great mashup of fantasy, steampunk, magic, and action/adventure.  I’m looking forward to the next installment  Pick up this story and see what I’m excited about.  And check out Landa!

Cover art, which is uncredited, show a disturbing trend in not matching the cover to anything that has to do with the subject matter of the story.  Which includes magic, fae, flying ships, swords, steampunk and battles over London.  Instead you get this with that metal heart. But really?   Considering where it is for much of the story.  Nah.

Sales Links: Harmony Ink Press | Dreamspinner Press (paperback) | Amazon |

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by Harmony Ink Press

 

 

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Four ( Love By Numbers #2) by Tia Fielding

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

After fleeing from an abusive relationship, genderqueer Kaos is welcomed by friends Makai and Emil (book one – Ten) who give him a safe place to stay while he looks for part time work until he can get a Wisconsin tattoo license. There he meets veterinarian Padraig Donovan, a silver fox who lost his husband four years before and is still having trouble getting used to being alone.

Padraig is stunned when he meets Kaos (who happens to be more feminine that day) since he’s never given a moment of attraction to anyone with feminine qualities before. But everything about Kaos appeals to him and soon they’ve become friends, then friends who kiss and cuddle, and eventually more. But it takes a long time to get there and an equally long time for Padraig to come to terms with his grief and for Kaos to accept his own reactions to his second chance for love.

This is a May-December, slow burn, second chance love story. There’s a lot to like here and the author did a lovely job building the characters and allowing their relationship to develop. And there was plenty of puppy love as the couple adopted and trained a mutt so those who love men with pets stories should love this as well. On a dark note, there was an underlying dramatic turn of events involving a break-in at the vet’s office and a scene describing animal abuse.

But the overall story offers hope and a sweet romance so those who look for age gap and hurt-comfort MM romance should enjoy this one.

The cover by Garrett Leigh features a young blond man looking toward the camera, a hoodie/shrug over his head. This is a great representation of Kaos, and the overall look of the cover is eye-catching.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 222 pages
Expected publication: July 23rd 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07T8PCDHC
Edition Language English
Series Love by Numbers 

Ten

Four

Join Us for Breakaway by Charlie Novak (excerpt and giveaway)

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Breakaway

Charlie Novak

Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance, Second Chance Romance

Release Date: 07.23.19

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Cover Designer: Natasha Snow/http://natashasnow.com/

Blurb

When your life revolves around a single goal, is there room for love?

Christian King is a rising star in English football. He’s talented, devoted, and on the road to glory. He’s following the path that’s been laid out for him since he was four, and he has no plans to deviate from it. Christian’s life revolves around a single goal—to be the best… until he runs into his first love ad former best friend, David.

David Cade is just trying to survive the final year of his PhD intact, while battling long hours, unmotivated students, and the idea that academia might not be for him. But a chance encounter with his first love’s twin sister changes everything, and suddenly David is faced with the realisation that he can’t leave the past behind.

When David and Christian are drawn back together, sparks fly. Soon, Christian is forced to confront his deepest insecurities. Can they break away from their fears for a second chance at true love?

Breakaway is a 79,000 word contemporary gay romance featuring light angst, glittery bath bombs, a ginger-haired roommate/pet, shared Star Wars love, and a meddling twin sister.

Universal Book Link: http://mybook.to/breakaway

Breakaway-Teaser2-text

Breakaway-Teaser1-text

Excerpt

We were still chatting after dinner, so we took our pudding into the living room, while Christian sang Monika’s praises and practically danced on the spot about being allowed pudding during the week. He’d always had a phenomenal sweet tooth, and I guessed that being a professional player was seriously at odds with his desire for sugar.

“Do you want to watch a film?” Christian asked as he flopped onto the sofa, carefully holding his bowl of lemon tart while searching for the remote.

“Sure,” I said, settling next to him and taking in the details of the room. It was light and airy, with large French doors at one end that I assumed opened up onto the garden, although it was too dark to see. The room was lit with the soft glow of lamps, which gave it a warm feel despite its size. The two sofas were scattered with a large selection of colourful cushions and throws, and in one corner a large television stood on a wooden stand. There was a unit beside it filled with Blu-rays and games as well as random knick-knacks and photos, and I was sure I could see a scattering of trophies in amongst them. I was dying to be nosey, but I also knew that wasn’t polite.

“What do you fancy? I’ve got Netflix and Amazon Prime,” Christian said. He gestured at the unit.

“Or there’s lots of Blu-rays up there. Take your pick.”

“I’ll have a look,” I answered, seizing my chance to satisfy my curiosity. I placed my bowl on the solid coffee table and meandered, over but before I could look at any of the photos, something on the floor behind the coffee table caught my eye.

It was a giant LEGO set, half assembled and spread across the carpet, the carefully numbered bags laid out neatly next to the large instruction manual.

“Holy fuck, is that the Millennium Falcon?” It was still more of a frame than anything else, but the shape was still recognisable.

“Yeah,” Christian said, his cheeks tinting again which made something funny pulse in my chest. “I, um, I like building them for fun. They’re good to take my mind off things, help me focus on being in the moment instead of dwelling on stuff. And I like Star Wars.”

“Do you have others?”

Christian nodded, chewing his lip and smiling. “I built the Death Star in the spring. That was fun, but it took hours. It’s upstairs so I don’t knock it over.”

My inner geek was dancing. I’d always loved Star Wars, and Christian and I had spent hours watching them as kids. My mum had even taken the two of us to see Revenge of the Sith for my birthday. As an adult I’d always longed for a couple of these sets, but they were so fucking expensive I’d never imagined getting one. I mean, this Millennium Falcon kit was worth nearly seven hundred quid.

“Can—can we build it now?” I asked, trying not to hold my breath.

“Really? I mean, you’d be interested in that?” There was a note of astonishment in Christian’s voice, while mine was barely controlled excitement.

“Of course! I’ve always wanted to get my hands on this.”

“Okay,” Christian said with a nod. “Let’s do it. Do you want to put a film on in the background? Maybe The Force Awakens? I haven’t seen it in a while.”

“Sounds perfect!”

Ten minutes later we were sitting on the floor, the opening credits of the film playing in the background while Christian talked me through what he’d done so far. It was obvious that he took his building seriously, and I had to admit it was adorable. After my pep talk, he handed me a bag and showed me the instructions he wanted me to follow.

“You know, I’m sure there’s a terrible joke about inserting things somewhere in there,” I said, watching the way Christian’s face flushed as my words filtered through.

“Probably,” he added. “But I’ve never thought of it.”

“Me neither, I’m not good with words.”

“I find that hard to believe—you’re doing your PhD.”

“Nah, that’s all smoke and mirrors,” I joked.

“So, tell me more about your work,” Christian said, picking up his own pieces. “I don’t know much about academic stuff beyond what Lily’s told me.”

I smiled, opened my bag, and began talking. And I didn’t stop. Well, not until the early hours of the morning. By that time, we’d covered my degree, Lily, our mums, the Champions League, and the new Star Wars and Marvel films. The only thing we’d avoided discussing was our relationships, but I figured that was because neither of us had much to tell. Plus, talking about new partners with exes is one of those weird grey areas I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to avoid.

With every word, I could feel Christian slotting back into my life like he’d never left, but at the same time, this wasn’t the same Christian as before. It was a new version—older, smarter, and sweeter. He was driven and determined and had a desire to know as much as he could and actually seemed interested when I spent another hour talking about my work. He talked non-stop about how proud he was of Lily and how much he loved her, and he was so endearingly serious and charming that I couldn’t help but be bowled over by him. And he was so disarmingly handsome that every time he smiled or chewed on his perfect, pink lips, the hot ball of desire in my chest burnt hotter and hotter until it felt like there was a supernova inside me.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt this way about anyone.

It had probably been six years.
Author Photo (Charlie N)

Charlie lives in England with her husband and a severe lack of dogs. She spends most of her days wrangling other people’s words in her day job and then trying to force her own onto the page in the evening.

She loves cute stories with a healthy dollop of angst, even more fluff, plenty of delicious sex, and happily ever afters – because the world needs more of them. Charlie also believes that love comes in all shapes and sizes.

Charlie has very little spare time, but what she does have she fills with cooking, pole-dancing, reading and ice-hockey. She also thinks that everyone should have at least one favourite dinosaur…


Website: https://charlienovak.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/charlienwrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/charlienwrites/
FB Readers Group (Charlie’s Angels): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1287247458080320/

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Love Fantasy? Check Out the Book Blitz for The Exile Prince (The Castaway Prince #2) by Isabelle Adler (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Exile Prince

Series: The Castaway Prince, Book Two

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 22900

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT fantasy, royalty, androgyny, gender-bending, cross-dressing

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Synopsis

Having chosen exile rather than face persecution at the hands of his family, Prince Stephan of Seveihar has finally found refuge in the south kingdom of Segor with his lover and former servant, Warren. For the first time in his life, Stephan is free to be who he really is, to explore his sexual identity and his fascination with all things feminine.

But it seems life has other plans, and the quiet happiness Stephan has run so far away to find is once again threatened by sinister forces from his past. Will Stephan and Warren’s newfound love be strong enough to weather the danger that could rip them apart forever?

Excerpt

The Exile Prince
Isabelle Adler © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The warm morning breeze carried the smell of sea salt, exotic spices, and the promise of a distant sandstorm.

Stephan breathed deeply, closing his eyes against the gentle currents, and leaned on the windowsill, offering his face up to the sun. It was not yet noon, but the heat was already building up. Soon the busy streets of the port city of Varta would empty, the denizens taking a brief respite during the midday hours to hide in the relative cool of their homes, away from the glare of the ruthless sun. At dusk, all activity would renew with rekindled vigor as the streets around the harbor filled with the cries of peddlers hawking their wares, the music of wandering performers, and the general hubbub of a large city going about its business. But for now, Stephan simply enjoyed the bright sunshine, which had been so rare in his native Seveihar, before he’d be forced to retreat to the shade of his rooms.

No, their rooms. He’d been living with Warren, his former footman and current lover, for the past six months, sharing the two cozy rooms in one of the quieter districts of Varta. The modest appointments were a far cry from the richness of his father’s royal palace in Sever, but luxury was low on Stephan’s priority list. These short months were the happiest he’d been in his entire life. Granted, at twenty years old, he was still at the beginning of his journey, but with his father gone and the rest of the family actively persecuting him, he’d had his fair share of misery.

Stephan sighed and closed the wooden shutters. Even so, the room was still softly illuminated, filled with translucent, soporific light. The hem of his white silk robe trailed after him as he made his way to the large writing desk, cluttered with sheaves of paper and different-colored inkwells. Warren, being the son of a merchant, was the one with the experience and a practical grasp for business, and he had been the one to suggest they invest the money left from selling Stephan’s extensive collection of jewelry in local commerce. For centuries, Varta, the second largest city of Segor, had been a crucial junction for the passage of goods between the deep south and the northern countries and provinces—including Seveihar and rival Esnia. With trade burgeoning in recent years, investing in independent shipping ventures seemed like a sound plan, although they were only now beginning to see any returns. None of it was enough to make a fortune, but for now, at least, they were able to live comfortably.

Stephan settled in a chair and pulled out a stack of letters he wanted to sift through one more time. While Warren was responsible for the finances, Stephan handled the records and correspondence. As a member of the royal family, he was well-versed in several languages, including Segati—a dialect spoken in Segor and along the long stretch of the southern coast. But reading and writing with a teacher weren’t the same as practicing the language among native speakers, and Stephan wanted to brush up on his communication skills as much as possible to be able to navigate the often-equivocal patterns of business negotiations with Segorian merchants and ship owners.

He was writing down some notes on a piece of paper when the door opened, and Warren stepped in, letting out a long-suffering sigh as he closed the door and took off his sweat-soaked scarf.

Stephan smiled as he rose to meet him. He threw his arms around Warren, planting a quick kiss on his lips. Warren’s skin, flushed and hot, still carried traces of salt and fish smell.

“I missed you,” Stephan said playfully.

Warren grinned in response, taking Stephan’s hand and kissing his fingers. “I’ve only been gone a few hours. And I still stink from the docks.”

“I don’t mind.” Stephan nodded at the leather-bound ledger sticking out of Warren’s coat pocket. “Any news?”

“The ship should arrive any day now. With the price of silk going up, we should make a nice profit off this consignment.”

“You might be the one to blame for the increase in prices,” Stephan teased. “You didn’t have to buy me quite so many dresses.”

“Of course I did. They make you happy. And I love seeing you in them.”

Warren let go of Stephan and threw the ledger on the desk. He was still smiling, but Stephan could sense tension in the rigid set of his shoulders and the way his smile quickly turned from genuine to strained.

“What’s wrong?” Stephan asked. “Are you worried about the ship being delayed?”

Warren shook his head and sat on the long bench beside a low dining table. He picked an orange from a fruit bowl and began peeling it.

“I’ve heard some bad news from Seveihar,” he said, avoiding meeting Stephan’s eyes.

Stephan sat back at the desk, tucking his long hair behind his ear in a nervous gesture. He knew he wasn’t going to like it.

“The war has started, hasn’t it?” he asked quietly.

Warren nodded. “Rumors spread fast in this city. It seems the first thing your brother did after ascending to the throne was declare war on Esnia.”

Stephan swore softly. His older brother, Robert, had been warmongering to garner political support, but until now, Stephan had clung to the naïve hope he wouldn’t go as far as actually starting a full-blown territorial war with their neighbor. Or at least that his advisers would stop him from making such a foolish move, if he wasn’t prudent enough to restrain himself. Even after fleeing his homeland and abandoning his title, Stephan couldn’t help but feel somehow responsible for the wellbeing of its people. Waging a war when most of them were already struggling with the increase in waterway taxes his uncle Rowan had decreed last fall would only add insult to injury.

“That wasn’t what got me worried, though. There’s more.” Warren dropped the peelings on the table and frowned at the naked fruit, as if surprised it turned out to be an orange after all. “There’s talk about Seveiharians in Varta. Apparently, an envoy arrived at the Governor’s palace two days ago. They were trying to keep it secret, but again, Varta is anything but surreptitious.”

Stephan shrugged. “So? They must be here to amend trade agreements. War changes demand, and the usual shipping routes would need to be altered if the Zenna River proves too dangerous now for regular transport.”

“No doubt.” Warren handed him a few orange slices, and Stephan popped them in his mouth. He flicked his tongue across his lips to lick away the juice, noting the way Warren’s gaze took on a familiar intensity as he followed the tiny movement.

Warren’s unmistakable interest sent a jolt of heat down his belly, triggering his own arousal. He licked his lips again, this time in an involuntary response to the thought of what he and Warren could be doing to while away the sultry midday hours. But apparently Warren wasn’t done yet.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.

Website | Twitter

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Review Tour and Giveaway for Cold Pressed (Seacroft #2) by Allison Temple

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 80,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Cate Ashwood Designs
 
Seacroft Series
 
Book 1 – Top Shelf – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb


No strings attached is all Oliver can offer. He’s hiding a broken heart that holds him back from diving into a new relationship, but he’ll go on a blind date to make his family happy. Just one date, though; he doesn’t have time for love to derail his plans.

Divorced and demoted to the night shift, Nick has his own problems. He’s got an ex-wife who needs him and a kid with one foot in juvie. The last thing Nick needs is to butt heads—or other body parts—with a tempting hipster who wears a sad smile on their blind date.

Their chemistry can’t be denied, though, in an argument or in bed. No strings sex is uncomplicated and that’s what Nick and Oliver need. But getting into bed together is one thing. Staying out of each other’s hearts soon becomes so much more complicated than either one imagined.

Cold Pressed is an 80k contemporary MM romance. It features a smoldering bisexual single dad, a broken-hearted hipster with a thing for beet juice, and a friends-with-benefits arrangement that blooms into the HEA you’ve been looking for.

 

Allison Temple has been a writer since the second grade, when she wrote a short story about a girl and her horse. Her grandmother typed it out for her and said she’s never seen so many quotation marks from a seven-year-old before. Allison took that as a challenge and has gone on to try to break her previous record in all her subsequent works.


Allison lives in Toronto with her very patient husband and the world’s neediest cat. She splits her free time between writing, community theater stage management, and traveling anywhere that has good wine. Tragically, this leaves no time to clean her house.


Newsletter (get two free shorts right now): https://allisontemplebooks.com/newsletter
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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17490635.Allison_Temple
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